As a ghostwriter, it can be difficult to determine when being funny is necessary. Not all clients are going to be receptive to your sense of humor. After all, everybody has a different idea of what is hilarious. However, there may be times when a one-liner might set the tempo for the rest of the content or accentuate a point you’re trying to make. So, how do you tell if something you’re writing for a client warrants being funny?
When Humor May Be Inappropriate
I know a lot of good-natured authors who love to put in a funny quip now and then. Often times, these individuals receive revision requests because the client didn’t like the joke. Here are a few ways to tell when adding a joke may be inappropriate for the piece.
What is the content type?
For the most part, the type of piece you’re creating for the client can be a dead giveaway when it comes to humor. Some things simply need to stay clinical and straight forward. This avoids alienating visitors or offending someone in some way. Here are some examples.
Clients who want product descriptions, for the most part, just want simple and basic information regarding the item. Some will request that the content be uplifting or full of energy, but not often will you find a client who wants humor.
Every technical manual I have assisted in required a vast knowledge of jargon and a straight forward writing style. These are usually meant as professional pieces that are based purely in facts and knowledge.
When reading a news-related article, you don’t often see jocularity part of the print. Most clients I have worked with simply refused to add something funny in the statement, unless it was for something like the “Onion” or other parody site.
A lot of clients may want you to create landing pages for their business. Unless the business centers around something funny, these are often strictly clinical pieces. However, I have met some clients who don’t mind the one-liner joke as long as it’s relevant to the landing page.
Is the piece for a blog
There is a big difference between writing a blog and developing a website. Blogs usually center more around a personable engagement. You’ll see a lot of first-person lingo in a blog as opposed to a business website. Most clients I have worked with for blogging enjoy a bit of humor when it comes to creating these kinds of pieces. In fact, a lot of them request it.
Basic websites are usually more focused on delivering facts and information. For many owners, tossing in a quick quip seems “unprofessional” when developing these kinds of pages. Sometimes a light-hearted comparison is OK when delivering information, but you may want to real it in. Here is an example of what I mean. Let’s say we are writing an opening line or two for a computer repair shop’s website. We could start it with:
“You’ve spent hours-upon-hours reaching level 90 conquering quests and vanquishing enemies, and then it happens. You lose your connection to the Internet. After troubleshooting with telephone tech support, you realize the problem is with your PC. What do you do now? There are still enemies to beat and treasures to be found.”
In this example, we kind of add a bit of fun to the experience of losing an Internet connection while playing a game. For me, this hits pretty close to home. There is nothing worse for a gamer than being on a winning streak only to have the network adapter in the computer fail. If the website owner doesn’t like the idea of using this opening because it centers attention on “gamers” rather than general repair, you may be able to talk them into using the piece as a landing page to target those gamers.
What is the temperament of the client’s website?
By taking a quick look around the client’s website, you can determine what kind of a mindset the owner delivers. If there is a bit of humor scattered about, then it may be OK to add in a short joke within the content. If the site is more clinical and more straightforward, then you may want to ask the client before adding anything “funny” within the piece.
Although some studies have demonstrated how good-humored pieces perform exceptionally well on the Internet, not all clients appreciate the addition. Some may even get down-right belligerent with you. When this happens, I simply put them on a blacklist in Textbroker. This means they can no longer contact me. I am too successful to take abuse from any client – it happens. It’s rare, but it happens. You can also turn those clients in to the brokerage firm you’re using.
It’s Always Best to Clarify
If you’re unsure whether you should put in a bit of humor, always ask the client first. Many of them can easily be talked into it, especially if you have a few good lines to add into the content. But don’t be dismayed if they don’t like your content. Remember, everyone’s sense of humor is different. What you may think is hilarious, the client could assume it to be offensive.
Never use hate, religion or adult humor in a client piece unless that is what the content is about. It’s a sure-fire way to get yourself fired from a contract. It could also get you banned on several brokerage firm websites. This means you may lose a potentially lucrative opportunity and may have to find work elsewhere. Since the competition is great for online ghostwriters, it’s too easy to lose a client because of a one-liner that you thought was funny.
Adding a joke here or there may be OK in many situations. However, you need to make sure that the content will be welcome for the client. When you’re creating pieces as a ghostwriter, it is the client who will be putting their name on the article. They may not want their persona related to something you thought was funny.